Florida: Siesta Key

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While contemplating about where I wanted to go in Florida, I reached out to some friends on Instagram and learned about Siesta Key.  It’s located near Sarasota, on Florida’s Gulf Coast with clear azure water and white powdery sand that stretches on for miles, it’s not hard to see why it’s ranked as the #1 beach in America.

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The unique part about the sand in Siesta Key is that it’s made up of 99% quartz and feels soft and cool to the touch, even on the hottest days. The sand is estimated to be millions of years old, flowing down the river from the Appalachians and eventually deposited on the shores of Siesta Key.

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After the SOA conference wrapped up, we rented a car and headed west over to the Gulf of Mexico, driving through the Everglades.  It took us about 3.5 hours before reaching the sleepy beach town of Siesta Key filled with vacation homes.  There are no hotels along the coast, just rental apartments that have been converted to Airbnbs.  We quickly checked into a 2-bedroom apartment, our home away from home for the next 4 days, and headed down to the beach.

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While staying in Siesta Key, our goal was to maximize our beach and relaxation time.  Here, you can do as much or as little as you want. You can enjoy a variety of water activities like boating, parasailing, kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, and you can even try your hand at fishing right from the shore.  Or you can just dip your toes in the soft white sand while enjoying a good book in your beach cabana as the cool sea breeze melts your troubles away. Our daily routine involved sleeping, eating, and going to the beach (hard life, I know!)

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We started each day with an invigorating walk along the water, taking in the beautiful setting while keeping an eye out for pretty shells. After lunch, we would head back  down for a couple more hours of swimming and lounging by the beach. The calm, shallow water near the shore makes this one of the safest beaches in the country.  It’s great for small children and beginner swimmers like me.

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Every night without fail, we made sure to join the hundreds of people by the shore to watch the picture-perfect sunset.  We waited patiently as the the sun made it’s way down the horizon, casting a golden glow and turning the water into liquid gold.  The first time I saw it, it took my breath away.  Once the orange ball of fire disappeared, it left behind a pinkish orange hue, like a fleeting memory of a magnificent event.

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When you’re tired of the beach, head on over to the Ringling art museum. This was the legacy of John and Mable Ringling, who made their fortune in the early 20th century as part of the famous Ringling family circus. Your admission also gives you access to the 66-acre estate which contains the Circus Museum, Ca’ d’Zan, Mable Ringling’s rose garden and many others.

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The Ringling Museum of Art is a Renaissance-style building that houses all the wonderful artworks donated from the Ringling’s considerable collection. The attractive pink colonnaded buildings surround a lovely sunken garden full of fountains and statues.

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Cà d’Zan, which means “House of John”, is Mable and John Ringling’s winter home. The waterfront residence overlooking Sarasota Bay, is  lavishly decorated with wrought-iron balconies, tile decorations and iridescent Moorish windows.  The mansion is truly eye-catching with its decorative pink sandstone exterior and beautiful multi-colored marble terrace. From the water, it looks like the Doge’s Palace in Venice.

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The museum is open until 5 pm each day and 8 pm every Thursday night.  Tickets cost $25 for the museum and an additional $10 for the Ca’ d’Zan tour.  But if you want to tour the grounds, it’s FREE!

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